Many people who spend hours in an office aspire to the prize of a corner office or desk with a view. With home working the new norm for most knowledge workers, that’s achievable. But how can you set up your home office so it’s more conducive to productivity or getting into a state of creative flow?
Create A Space You Enjoy Working In
Consider how you can turn an otherwise bland spare room into a place where you’re happy to spend hours of the day. On your desk or wall, hang a motivational quote, painting or even rented art. It’s also a good idea to remove distracting triggers from a workstation, such as a television or games console.
“Art has been proven to increase productivity, enhance wellbeing and help creative thinking, making it an essential addition to any home office,” says Patrick McCrae, CEO of UK art consultancy ARTIQ.
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He suggests that workers, “paint the office a more desirable color, hang posters and postcards or display personal photographs” and adds, “filling workspaces with motivational images such as vision boards and inspiring quotes can also aid productivity.”
Cats, Dogs, And Candles Allowed
Many office managers shy away from allowing pets into the workplace because not everyone is an animal lover. And 100 lit candles pose a serious fire hazard.MORE FOR YOUJack Ma, Chinese Multibillionaire And Founder Of Tech Giant Alibaba, Went Missing After Criticizing China’s GovernmentWhat The New Coronavirus Relief Bill Does For Unemployment InsuranceHow To Handle Pressure: 3 Lessons From Trump’s Call With Raffensperger
Homeworkers, on the other hand, can keep themselves company with a pet and use a scented candle as a reminder to breathe. Although candles are enjoyable, I rely on smart lights to change the visual tone of my home office at certain times of the day. Changing light strength would probably annoy colleagues in an office, but that’s not an issue at home.
“Studies continue to show that what we see and interact with directly influences our well-being. Form, color and light are particularly important for productivity, so it’s important to encourage staff to design their office with their work requirements in mind,” McCrae says.
Establish Boundaries Between Work And Personal Life
Not every homeworker has space for a dedicated home office, and many are sharing workspaces, living rooms or kitchens with friends, spouses or parents.
If that’s the case, confine work in your house or apartment to a single location like the kitchen table. Experiment with lighting to signal when it’s time to focus on work versus switching off for the day. Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can help you get in a mental zone if space is an issue.
Of course, endless video conferences and a deluge of instant messages don’t help. If you’re a manager, agree with your team about how much communication is expected and when.
“Some of the most important norms to set include…agreeing on ‘dark time’ (when a response is not expected), aligning on how to show availability (e.g., calendar blocks, Slack status), and establishing what channel to use for what purpose,” says Megan Wheeler, Director of Recruiting at LifeLabs Learning.
“Once norms are created, there should be one source of truth, like a playbook, making it easy to review, update as needed, and onboard new team members.”
Experiment With Color
Use extra free time after work or during the weekend to reconsider an overdue home decorating project. The color red is conducive to energy, green unlocks creative thinking and blue is calming.
“Block colours and strong lines are proven to help with tasks that require focus and concentration, whilst abstract content and neural palettes are preferable when promoting calm and tranquillity,” McCrae says. “If you are looking for inspiring content, use bright strong colours with refined compositions.”
The great working from home experiment is a chance to explore a preferred working style. With a little imagination, most people can adapt their environment to suit how and when they like to work.
“Keeping yourself engaged and making sure you have a changing, vibrant home environment is vital to keeping creative and ensuring your productivity stays high,” says McCrae.
Whether you operate a business out of your home or telecommute occasionally, you’ve probably struggled at some point with the multitude of distractions and temptations a home office offers.
There are benefits to working from home, of course: reduced travel time, savings on gas and meals, the comfort of working in your pyjamas (okay, try to avoid that one).
In fact, working from home can actually result in greater productivity–Workopolis found in their poll that 90% of people believe telecommuting actually makes them more productive. It can sure help you achieve that elusive work-life balance.
There can be distractions, though. The dog wants out. The laundry needs done. Your children/significant other/neighbors don’t quite grasp the concept that working at home is still working and you’re finding your time divided between actually getting things done and trying to fend off interruptions.
How can you make your home office the most productive space it can be? I’ve had to reevaluate my home office space since becoming a father last year and have found these tips super helpful:
1. Set Your Office Up for Productivity.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a massive office with solid oak doors, impenetrable by the outside world, with a giant desk overlooking a quiet pond, or maybe a stand of weeping willow trees, disturbed only by the deer playing around the trunks…
Okay, that’s not likely to happen for most people, but you can still design your home office with productivity in mind.
Try to stay out of trafficked areas and find a quiet corner of the house, if at all possible. Paint your space a soothing color you enjoy (green is supposed to be great for productivity). Make sure your space has a window, unless you enjoy the feeling of working in a cave. Put plants or a small fountain outside that window, if possible, to give yourself something non-distracting and peaceful to look at. Make enough space that you can have everything you need to get your work done easily at hand.
2. Keep Your Distractions Handy.
You’re going to need brain-breaks once in a while. Maybe it’s a book, or a game app on your phone, or a favorite musical instrument–choose your weapon. Keep it close by so you can reward yourself with short breaks, but tuck it out of sight. You don’t want to be constantly tempted and find yourself staring longingly at it instead of working.
3. Get Comfortable.
Not so comfortable you’re napping more than working, mind you. But it’s awfully hard to be a focused, productive person when you’re constantly straining to see your computer screen or rubbing your aching back.
Invest in a good office chair and make sure you’re sitting in an ergonomically correct position at your desk. If you get really uncomfortable sitting too long, try a standing desk in one corner of the room. I don’t particularly enjoy them, but some people swear by it.
Little things like an anti-glare screen for your computer can seriously up your comfort level, allowing to focus on getting your work done.
4. Invest in Light Exercise Equipment.
Pick up a set of resistance bands, light weights or even a small treadmill or step machine and keep it in your office space. Taking short breaks for exercise can help you shift gears, refocus and reenergize as needed throughout the day. Not to mention–it’s just good for you. Your head and heart (and back, and shoulders, and knees…) will thank you for this one.
5. Declutter Ruthlessly and Often.
Things have a habit of collecting in home offices… all kinds of things–especially if you have kids.
Make it a habit to purge your home office of paper piles, half-read books, coffee cups, knickknacks and whatever else is taking up space and not serving any purpose.
Resist the urge to use that space as storage–and fight off anyone else in your home who sees that nice clean space of floor as a potential home for those boxes of old clothes and books they’re too lazy to carry to the basement. You can’t get your work-from-home groove on with a clear, focused mindset when you’re surrounded by junk.
6. Take Eye Breaks.
This sounds small, but you’d be surprised how much difference it can make! It’s hard to remember to do it regularly, so make a real effort here and see how it works for you.
Reduce eye strain by following the 20-20-20 rule. Every twenty minutes, stop looking at your screen. Stare at something 20 yards away and hold it for 20 seconds. Your peepers will thank you.
7. Work with Purpose.
Make a list of tasks you need to complete every day–and then do it. Make sure everything you need to get your work done is available to you, whether in your office or on the computer. Cross items off the list as you go.
8. Get Tough with Distracting People
There may be people in your life that, as hard as you try to remind them gently, just don’t get it–that working from home still means working!
Whether it’s a chatty neighbor, or a friend who just likes to pop by, or your mother-in-law calling incessantly, teach yourself to politely but firmly disengage. Don’t answer the phone or the door; it’s really as simple as that. Once you’ve let people know your work hours and that you are unavailable, there’s no need to apologize for being unavailable for anything short of an actual five-alarm emergency.
If you don’t set your boundaries, no one’s going to do it for you.
9. Dress Like a Grownup
It’s a bad habit to get into–wandering down the stairs in your boxers and t-shirt, grabbing a cuppa and heading straight to the computer. You can shower later, right? Maybe next break…
Don’t do it. Force yourself to get up and get ready for a regular work day, every day. You’re going to get distracted, you’ll lose track of time and be in a panic when you suddenly have to get ready for a video call or to actually go somewhere. Plus, there’s just something about dressing the part that makes you feel more professional and ready to tackle your work in the most productive way possible.
Seriously, put your pants on.
7 Tried-and-True Secrets for a Productive Home Office
The jury is still out on whether employees who work from home or work from an office are more productive, but research from a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that people who work their same office schedule from home get more done per day. The employees’ explanation? The quiet environment helped their productivity.
What’s more, working from home gives you the freedom to create the space you need to do the work you need to do. At home, you can control (at least most of) the features of your surroundings, while in an office, you’ve pretty much just got your desk to design.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the workspaces and work habits of seven DIY, design, and home improvement bloggers. Not only do they work from home, but thanks to their expertise, they know how to create their perfect, concentration-boosting space.
Here are their best productivity tips, which you can replicate and try out in your own workspace. (And, hey, some of this advice might even work at a “real” office!)
1. Think Like a Mouse
…And find the quietest corner of your house. While some people need some background noise to work, others find any noise at all (a barking dog, a noisy air vent, children playing) incredibly disturbing.
For Our Home from Scratch blogger John Gerard, a busy room is the worst place to work. “I’m much more efficient in a quiet, distraction-free space,” he says. “Our home office is far enough away from the television and the play area that, with the doors closed, I can easily work in peace.”
If you feel the same way, make sure that your workspace doesn’t coincide with anyone’s play space. Or, at the very least, choose a room with a door.
2. Declutter Your Desk
It’s pretty obvious that swimming through extra papers and pens delays your progress, but what exactly should you have on your desk? According to Engineer Your Space blogger Isabelle LaRue, not much. “I usually have a couple of folders on the left-hand side housing my current projects and since I have a bad sticky note habit, there’s always a few of those lying around on any given day.”
While sticky notes can be a helpful tool, extra books, piles of paper, or cups half full of lukewarm coffee will strongly detract from your productivity, not to mention your concentration. You don’t want your desk to be empty—don’t stow away your pen if you’ll be picking it up again today—but giving yourself space to work allows you to have space to think as well.
3. And the Rest of the House
According to Melissa George from Polished Habitat, it might take a bit more than clearing your desk to focus your mind. “I’ve actually noticed that my concentration goes up when the entire house is straightened up,” she explains. “Even though I can’t see the kitchen island from the office, I work better when it is free from mail and the other things that tend to pile up on it.”
In other words, as much as you want to ignore your messy living room, shutting your office door might not be enough to convince you that your mess has disappeared. Spend a couple minutes each night tidying up, so that the next morning you’re ready for business.
4. Bring in Some Green
Though you probably shouldn’t set up shop in your garden, you can definitely bring some of the outdoors in. A desk or floor plant is a great way to add a breath of fresh air to your workspace and create some visual variety when your eyes need a break from the screen. “I always have fresh flowers beside the computer on my desk,” says Daune Pitman, blogger at Cottage in the Oaks.
If you don’t trust your black thumb to keep that plant going for more than a week, try something resilient, like a small cactus or succulent, or at least arrange your desk so that you can see the outdoors. “My desk faces two large glass doors and windows,” says Daune, “so I can always have a view outside.”
5. Try a Scent
For some, including Organizing Made Fun blogger Becky Barnfather, a good scent can make a big difference.
Beyond adding a pleasant smell to your workspace, certain essential oils have proven effects that could help you get your work done. Peppermint, for example, can give you an energy boost, while rosemary can help you concentrate and get tasks done faster and more accurately. And sweet orange can help with anxiety. (Just make sure you look up how to use each kind properly and safely!)
6. Use a Smaller To-Do List
Before you begin tackling the day’s tasks, spend 10 minutes creating a detailed checklist. Then, spend another five making an even shorter checklist of tasks you absolutely know will get done in the next couple of hours.
This idea is from Donna Williams, home decor and design blogger at Funky Junk Interiors. “If the tasks are too many for the day,” she explains, “there’s no way it’ll get done.” This trick not only helps you remember and plan for each chore, but also breaks your day down into small, actionable tasks. Plus, once you check off or cross out your finished work, those visible accomplishments will spur your productivity!
7. Take Meaningful Breaks
When it’s time to take a break, most of us default to clicking over to social media for a while. But for a more productive way to recharge your batteries, try reading relevant articles to give you some inspiration, learning about new innovations in your field, or even taking a walk around your block. The Cutting Cafe blogger Regina Easter works in paper crafts and designs, so when she hits an unproductive slump, she’ll spend some time on Pinterest, getting some inspiration and motivation to keep working.
As long as you’re timing your breaks, you’ll be back to work shortly and your brain will feel a bit more refreshed. Choose an increment of time that works better for your schedule and work habits. Just be careful not to make it so short that it interrupts you when you’re finally in the zone, or so long that it is ineffective.
With a quiet, beautiful space and some strategic habits, even the 3 PM work slump won’t know what hit it! To check out more productive workspaces and home offices, browse the Home Office page on Hometalk.